The Government has finally started seeking views on a Food Strategy, and this important work cannot be shelved, regardless of what happens with Brexit or an election, says Adam Speed, communications manager at the CPA.
Has anybody checked on Brenda in Bristol? A General Election now seems inevitable, with no end in sight for the political turmoil that has engulfed us for the last three years.
Food is obviously high up the agenda, with dire warnings of no-deal having a devastating impact on UK agriculture and causing food shortages in our supermarkets.
Among all of this, I came across a story earlier this week that more schools in England than ever before are setting up foodbanks to help feed their pupils.
The Trussell Trust, the charity responsible for around two thirds of foodbanks in the UK, has recorded a 73 per cent increase in foodbank use in the last 5 years.
Other estimates put the number of people regularly using foodbanks at around 4 million and the Food Foundation estimates 8 million Brits live in food poverty.
This is a national scandal and one which needs urgent focus, wherever we land post-Brexit and whoever ends up in Number 10.
The opening of the call for evidence for the National Food Strategy is a welcome start, and needs to be continued no matter who forms the next Government.
The first stated aim of the strategy is to ‘deliver safe, healthy, affordable food, regardless of where people live or how much they earn’. This cuts to the heart of the matter.
Government policy must not make healthy eating even more difficult for hard-pressed families by inadvertently causing the cost of food to rise.
Earlier in the summer, we published a report by the independent economist Séan Rickard.
Séan estimated that without crop protection, the weekly shop for a family of four would increase by 15 per cent, or £786 per year, presenting a severe challenge to already struggling households and making healthy eating more expensive.
While it may be politically popular to call for restrictions on crop protection, politicians should be wary of the unintended consequences.
Whether it’s a reversion to older chemistry, the threat of resistance, or loss of yield and increases in prices, we need to fully analyse the impact of these decisions and adopt a holistic approach to policy in this area.
We need rules which enable innovation in agri-tech, providing solutions that support productive agriculture and reduce the impact on the environment.
Consumers are supportive of this approach.
Recent research carried out by YouGov and commissioned by our colleagues in the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC) found 72 per cent of UK adults support the use of new techniques and innovation to increase crop diversity and food security.
Failure to support productive agriculture will create a number of gaps. Gaps between supply and demand for food, gaps in the toolbox of products available to British farmers compared to their competitors elsewhere in the world, widening the gap between agri-tech research and development and the resulting innovations reaching the field.
Fortunately, politicians won’t be short of reminders as they make their way home from Westminster on the underground – mind the gap.
Adam can be found tweeting at @AdamMSpeed